Hobbes: Political Philosophy and Hobbes Essay

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The primary purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis on the issue of self-defense by drawing evidence from Aquinas, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Locke. Through an analysis of what self-defense consists of, from these political theorists, one can more accurately determine when it is applicable. Aquinas argued that man should not kill in self-defense and “it will be lawful in self-defense to resist force in due moderation” (170). Hobbes reasoned that “the fundamental law of nature” is to “seek peace and follow it…by all means we can, to defend ourselves” (190). Machiavelli claimed that, “apart from the evils [war] brings with it, being defenseless makes you contemptible” (41). Finally, Locke argued that in the state of nature “Everyone is bound to preserve himself” and to “preserve the rest of mankind” (9). The question of self-defense then, is one of moral authority within the nation to set the limits to obedience to the state and its laws given the prevalent dangers in the world. As a result, this paper argues that self-defense is acceptable in the state of nature and of war, because forming a political society vanquishes man’s right to self-preservation, his security and well-being is placed in the hands of the governing authority and regulated by laws. This paper will provide the perspectives of each theorist on the issue of self-defense, followed by an analysis of the functions of government in relation to self-preservation, and conclude on the effect of laws to make man good.
Most modern political theorists all agree that individuals have the right to defend their privacy, family, home or life. Aquinas perfectly summed up the natural impulse in all man, by stating that “it is natural for everything to keep itself in existence as far as possible” (170). The sole purpose of man is to keep himself alive, whether it be in a political society or not. While acknowledging this fact, Aquinas also states that man should seek good and “that good is what all things seek” (43). He believed that natural law, or simply the ability to reason, has inclined men to do good as he seeks his self-preservation. The preservation of “human life and [preventing] the contrary belong to the natural law” (43). Simply put, it is sinful for man to take his own life or the life of another man. If man is faced with danger, Aquinas affirmed that “it be unlawful to use greater force than necessary to defend one’s life” (Aquinas, 170). It would be ideal to first try to escape or seek the help of authorities, but if neither of them is an option, man should react in moderation. Since man is a rational creature, as endowed to him by natural law, he can use reason to balance his actions. Hobbes, however, believed that in the state nature man is irrational and will do anything to survive. Aquinas further assert that, “It is unlawful for human beings other than those holding public authority to intend to kill an aggressor in the course of self-defense” (170). Only public officials are allowed to kill in self-defense, since doing so is for the common good. Civilians can’t, since doing so only serves their interest. Aquinas, concluded that “it is indeed never lawful to kill anyone” (168). No individual should take the life of another, such action is contrary to natural law and violates the role of public authorities.
Hobbes’s view on self-defense deviates from the other theorists, in the sense that his suspicion and fear of man in the state of nature influence his discourse on this issue. Hobbes believed that in the state of nature “every man is enemy to every man”, and man is faced with the perpetual fear of violent death (186). Fear of death forced men to form a political society to escape a state of “solitary, poor, brutish, nasty [and] short” life (186). Given that the fear of death never escaped man even in a political society, men retained the fundamental right to preserve their lives against their enemies. In the state of nature,